RIO DE JANEIRO — The King of Spain relinquished his crown yesterday. So did the country’s football dynasty. Goals were scored a plenty, and one mighty underdog lifted its nation’s spirits even in loss.
Here’s what we’ll be talking about and looking forward to today at the World Cup:
1. ENGLAND vs. URUGUAY
Third time’s the charm: Second guessing is second nature for fans, but England’s taken it to a whole another level. We swear they’re overly obsessed over Wayne Rooney. (Somewhere David Beckham is going, “Wayne, I know. Boy, do I know.”) We’re talking about a guy who’s scored 39 goals for his country, but not a single one at a World Cup. And this is his third one.
Uruguay should fare better than it did in its 1-3 loss to Costa Rica. Its star forward, Luis Suarez, recovering from knee surgery, is ready to play. It’s not just that he can score — and do so spectacularly — it’s the confidence that his presence will infuse in the team.
2. OTHER SHOWDOWNS
Lord of the dance: It sure would be nice to see Colombia score against the Ivory Coast — just to enjoy another one of their goal celebrations. Imagine how they’d dance if they win this match and virtually assure their passage into the next round?
Clean sweep: In the last match of the day, Greece plays Japan. Don’t yawn. Greece, while far from dazzling, played much better in its opener than the final score reflected (A 3-0 loss to Colombia). Japan, too, was pretty good against the Ivory Coast until the Elephants nabbed two late goals. Fans of the Samurai Blue clean up after themselves in the stands. Here’s hoping the team does so too on the field.
3. SPAIN’S OUSTER
Spanish inquisition: There’s going to be an anguished inquest in Spain today. They came into the tournament singing “We are the champions.” They leave red-faced, losing not just to the Netherlands 1-5 last week, but also to Chile 0-2. They lost to Chile — a team that’s never beaten them, EVER!
Here’s how hard the rain fell on Spain. In 2010, they conceded only two goals the entire tournament. In just two games this year, they swallowed seven!
Chile, on the other hand, was still singing up a storm in Rio early this morning. Their team was a joy to watch: cohesive, clever, confident.
4. THE AUSSIE UNDERDOGS
Call and response: It was the soccer equivalent of that musical form. One team scored; the other equalized mere minutes later. And although Australia was the huge underdog to the Dutch behemoth yesterday, this was no Oranje rout. The Netherlands move on the round of 16 after beating the Socceroos 3-2. But what we’ll remember is the Aussie’s never-say-die fight — and Tim Cahill’s thunderstruck volley. Sublime!
5. STADIUM SECURITY
Tear down this wall: At first, it seemed kind of humorous: ticketless fans marauding through a tunnel underneath the stadium looking for their dream destination — seats at the World Cup.
Then it turned into something like the running of the bulls. The fans knocked down temporary walls as they herded down the corridor, swarming past stunned journalists inside the Maracana stadium an hour before the Chile-Spain kickoff yesterday. Cops detained at least 85.
JUST FOR KICKS
While you wait for the games to begin, here are some soccer-related stuff that’s making waves this Thursday:
If not Ronaldo, then Eminem?: The Deuce is loose and ready to produce rhymes in times that strike and score, that you’ll adore, that take their toll, until he reaches his goooooooooooooooal. Sorry, we’ll leave the rapping to Clint Dempsey aka The Deuce (his preferred uniform number), who according to the Wall Street Journal will release a new album after the Cup. It’s not his first rap effort, as fans of the 2006 U.S. team will recall.
And we shall call it Golfball: A game that combines the two. Why not?
Soccer in a minion nutshell: Also known as haters gonna hate.